MY FAVORITE 8 CD’S OF 2016
In EARLY SNOWFALL (www.summitrecords.com) Christmas music, all but the title song familiar to most of us, is given a fresh makeover by a peerless jazz quintet – Rick VanMatre on saxes and flute, Rusty Burge on vibraphone, Michael Sharte on bass, John Taylor on drums – in arrangements by Kim Pensyl that elegantly mine unpredictable harmonic twists and turns next to inventive riffs.
Navona Records (www.navonarecords.com), brought out MI PALPITA IL COR, an elegant new release of early vocal and instrumental music by Steffani, Sammartini, Handel, Telemann and Rameau, featuring the members of Musica Pacifica, a renowned ensemble that specializes in early music, playing ancient or replicas of old instruments in their work. Soprano Dominique Labelle (www.domiquelabelle.com) is impressively featured in three cantatas that provide many of the album’s delights.
I put THE POSTCARD SESSIONS (www.parmarecordings.com) on my CD player and one hour later I was a fan of the Harrington/Loewen Duo, a perfect pairing of saxophonist Allen Harrington and pianist Laura Loewen who play chamber music of the highest order, whether taking on the romantic lyricism of Robert Schumann’s Drei Romanzen, op. 94, or the Argentine urbanity of Astor Piazzolla’s Oblivion.
TO KEEP THE DARK AWAY (www.ravellorecords.com) features an exciting mix of the contemporary and the Romantic in piano literature. Gayle Martin’s playing is classically elegant in selections by Schumann and Wagner. But it is the intricately beautiful new music of Judith Shatin and Martin’s playing of it that which makes this album so very special.
COULOUIR is defined by more than one dictionary as a steep gradient in mountainous terrain that provides a way up into higher ground. The Canadian duo of cellist Ariel Barnes and harpist Heidi Krutzen (www.couloir.CA) climb musical heights in this most recent exploration of the music of James Maxwell and Nico Muhly. The Ravello (www.ravellorecords.com) release is a keeper for all fans of new music.
ABRAZO: THE HAVANA SESSIONS – a double CD from Parma Records’s new Ansonica label (www.ansonicarecords.com ) features works for big band, small jazz combo, choir, and chamber ensembles by Bunny Beck, Roger Bourland, Donald Bowyer, Margaret Brandman, John Carollo, Timothy Miller, Mel Mobley, and Michael Murray performed by members of the National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba, the Buena Vista Social Club, Irakere, Vocal Luna and Schola Cantorum Coralina. This recording is more than just a terrific opportunity for Parma Records’s new Ansonica label to tap into the unexplored corners of Cuban and Cuban-inspired music that lies waiting to be played by musicians living just 90 miles from our shores.
DREAM VAPORS is composer Rain Worthington’s first full-length solo CD (www.navonarecords.com). The neatly-packaged CD, complete with press quotes and biographical information on the composer, features seven orchestral pieces ranging in length from little over six minutes to slightly longer than ten. This is an extraordinary sampler of the original work of an American composer fully deserving of this solo showcase.
Navona Records (www.navonarecords.com) released BLURRED BOUNDARIES, a collection of new compositions impressively played by the Apollo Chamber Players (www.apollochamberplayers.org), among them Libby Larsen’s Sorrow Song and Jubilee, Erberk Eryilmaz’s Thracian Airs of Besime Sultan, and Marty Regan’s Splash of Indigo. With this album, the Apollo Chamber Players make their mark as not only an ensemble of quality but as loyal supporters and players of new and innovative music.